Five crucial locations that hold the key to our planet's future

·Assistant News Editor
·4-min read

As the world struggles to deal with combating global warming, there are a handful of key locations on the planet that could have an outsized impact on future temperature rises. 

If humanity is able to keep a lid on rising temperatures, these dormant spots must remain undisturbed.

As dramatic as it sounds, their demise could hasten our own, according to research in the prestigious science journal Nature. 

"There are some natural places that we cannot afford to lose due to their irreplaceable carbon reserves," researchers wrote in Nature Sustainability

They mapped locations of ecosystems with "irrecoverable carbon" which, if released into the atmosphere, "could not be recovered by mid-century, by when we need to reach net-zero emissions to avoid the worst climate impacts."

African forest elephant in a national park Republic of the Congo, a region identified for its carbon rich environment. Source: Getty
African forest elephant in a national park Republic of the Congo, a region identified for its carbon rich environment. Source: Getty

Currently, the carbon-heavy ecosystems remain within human purview to manage. 

While the phasing out of fossil fuels is critical to tackling global warming, the study found that 57 per cent of irrecoverable carbon was in trees and plants with 43 per cent found in soils.

According to the research, since 2010 agriculture, logging and wildfire have caused emissions of at least 4.0 gigatonnes of irrecoverable carbon. 

While protected areas and indigenous land rights boost preservation, the authors highlighted ecosystems with high carbon concentrations, declaring them vital to conservation efforts.

"Half of Earth’s irrecoverable carbon is concentrated on just 3.3 per cent of its land, highlighting opportunities for targeted efforts to increase global climate security," they write. 

The researchers pointed to carbon-rich forests and peatlands in North America, western South America, the Congo Basin, and the island of Borneo in Asia as four key ecosystems that must not be destroyed. 

Researchers identified areas of high irrecoverable carbon density in the Pacific Northwest of North America (a), western South America (b), the Congo Basin (c) and the island of Borneo (d). Areas with zero irrecoverable carbon are displayed in grey to demonstrate the footprint of global manageable carbon. Source: Nature
Researchers identified areas of high irrecoverable carbon density in the Pacific Northwest of North America (a), western South America (b), the Congo Basin (c) and the island of Borneo (d). Areas with zero irrecoverable carbon are displayed in grey to demonstrate the footprint of global manageable carbon. Source: Nature

"These are the areas that really cannot be recovered in our generation," Monica Noon from Conservation International, the lead author of the study, told The Guardian.

"It is our generation’s carbon to protect. But with irrecoverable carbon concentrated in a relatively small area of land, the world could protect the majority of these climate-essential places by 2030," she said.

While it was differentiated in the research as the study excluded polar regions and permafrost, Russia's permafrost region hosts the biggest store of irrecoverable carbon on the planet.

Eucalyptus forests in Australia were also mentioned, with researchers claiming Australia is home to 2.5 per cent of the world's irrecoverable carbon, largely in our coastal mangroves and seagrasses, The Guardian reported.

Nations move towards pledge to protect 30 per cent of land and oceans

The central pledge of a planned new global nature pact – to protect 30 per cent of the planet's land and seas – is still being worked on despite what supporters say is a growing urgency.

A coalition of about 70 countries - including G7 wealthy governments - have already promised to conserve at least 30 per cent of their land and oceans by 2030, a pledge known as 30x30, to help curb climate change and the loss of plant and animal species.

The 30x30 goal is part of a draft global treaty to safeguard plants, animals and ecosystems, due to be finalised next May at the COP15 nature summit in the Chinese city of Kunming, according to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

"Many countries are supporting it - but also many countries are not supporting it," said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the CBD's executive secretary.

"It is still very much for debate," she told Reuters. 

Improving protection of natural areas, such as parks, oceans, forests and wildernesses, is seen as vital to maintaining the ecosystems on which humans depend, and to limiting global warming to internationally agreed targets.

Dozens of nations pledged to do more to conserve nature and make farming greener at the COP26 UN climate talks this month.

with Reuters

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